Mar 6:48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, Mar 6:49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, Mar 6:50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." Mar 6:51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.
The pericope of Jesus walking on the water is one of the most famous portions of Scripture there is. Yet as in all accounts in the Bible it is related to us not that we can marvel at a really neat thing Jesus did but to teach us some extremely important life lessons; not the least of which is that we need to be astounded at God, not the creatures and forces he has made.
At the heart of this situation is that the disciples are in a trial, not because they were out of the Lord’s will, but precisely because they were being obedient. This should stop us from assuming that when bad things happen to us either we are out of God’s will or it is his will that we not have difficulty; but for many these are the only two options they consider. Neither was true in this case.
Paul Tripp makes a good point here when he says that as soon as Jesus stepped onto the water it was obvious that merely delivering the disciples from hardship was not important to him (my words). If all Jesus was concerned about was helping the disciples escape tribulation he could have commanded the storm to stop from shore. The above account helps us see what Jesus was really after.
Their problem was not the storm; Jesus sent them straight into it. Their problem was a heart problem; they feared the storm more than they feared and trusted in God. What they needed and what we need is not to ignore the storms of life and act like they don’t exist but to be more astounded at Christ than the storms. This is one reason why the Lord sends trials to begin with; to magnify himself in our eyes so that we stand in awe of him more than temporal things as he delivers us through them.
While trials and hardships and sickness and such things are a result of the fall and shall one day be eradicated, we must be careful of seeing them as our enemies. If Jesus can say to count it all joy when we meet various trials, then the effect they should have on our prayer life and on our emotional life and our spiritual life should be far different than they often are.
David said it well, Psa 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psa 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. I heard John Piper say that more lose their faith during good times than in difficult times. The more we make life about Christ, the better we will be able to endure affliction because we understand that our comfort or lack thereof is not what we are to pursue. In this we will find comfort and peace because to have Christ is enough no matter what we might not have in this life. Having Christ is far more important than having comfort and outward peace.
This use of difficulty is furthered illustrated in the text from Mark when we read that Jesus intended to pass their boat by and not even help them. Again, the storm was the least of their real problems. When the crowd needed to be fed earlier that day they wanted to send them away to fend for themselves when Christ was right there to help them. So Christ gives them a taste of their own medicine and puts them in the people’s shoes. How did they like the Lord of Glory strolling by them while they feared for their lives? What a marvelous lesson of humility and compassion. Without a storm such lessons would be lost.